Newspaper trade boosted by expansion of free dailies

The worldwide number of free dailies grew by 16 per cent in 2003

The expansion of free dailies and strong circulation growth in China and India boosted the world newspaper industry in 2003.

Circulation was more or less stable and advertising revenues grew for the first time in three years.

The World Association of Newspapers World Press Trends survey revealed that circulation was down 0.12 per cent in 2003 compared with a drop of 0.35 per cent in 2002.

Advertising revenue was up 2 per cent compared with a decline of 0.52 per cent in 2002 and a 5 per cent drop in 2001.

The survey was based on data from all 208 countries where newspapers are published. It was released to coincide with the World Newspapers Forum in Istanbul this week.

The number of free dailies was up 16 per cent in 2003. Metro UK is now printing nearly one million copies a day and Metro International publishes 5.5 million a day in 16 countries.

Of the 15 pre-enlargement EU countries, 13 reported circulation down year-on-year. Just Belgium (+0.2 per cent) and Spain (+0.1 per cent) were up.

Britain reported one of the biggest circulation drops in 2003 (-4.7 per cent) compared with France (-1.5 per cent), Germany (-3 per cent), Italy (-1.7 per cent) and Ireland (-7.8 per cent).

China and India were the two biggest newspaper markets in 2003 and also the fastest growing.

Circulation in China was up 4.17 per cent to 85 million a day and Indian newspaper sales were up 9.16 per cent to more than 72 million copies a day.

Circulation of US dailies was said to be stable.

In Russia the number of daily papers has nearly doubled in two years to 428 in 2003.

The Norwegians and Japanese remain the world’s most voracious newspaper buyers, with 684 and 647 sales per thousand of population respectively every day.

The WAN estimated world newspaper readership at “well over” one billion.

WAN director general Timothy Balding said of 2003: “The pressures on the circulation of newspapers continued, but newspapers showed a greater willingness than ever before to innovate and experiment with strategies to win new readers.

“Many newspapers changed format to satisfy reader demand and others are still studying the opportunities that exist in compact formats. Many newspapers converted to full colour.

“There is evidence that newspaper internet operations are capturing new audiences. And the growth in new free commuter dailies is also expanding the reach of the written press to a younger generation.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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